C woke with a fever Tuesday morning. He’d had an ear infection the week before and was still on antibiotics, so I made an appointment at the doc’s and when we were loading him into the car seat I noticed his soft spot was swollen. Turns out that soft spot is called the fontanelle, we’ve heard that word so many times in the last few days I’ll always remember it. And the swelling that Z and I thought was a mere curiosity was actually a great big hairy deal that sent us to the Pediatric ER here in town. My sweet C got an IV, he had a CT scan, and he had a spinal tap. The bottom line is he seems to be fine. He doesn’t have meningitis or anything funky in his brain, anyway. They think the ear infection or a mystery virus somehow caused the fluid retention.
This was our first visit to the ER for either of the boys. And it was every bit as awful as I’d imagined it would be. We couldn’t arrange child care for T for a couple of hours, so Z dropped us at the hospital. My weeping got a bit hysterical as they inserted the IV. Unsurprisingly, finding a vein is difficult in a wee babe. It only took two tries, but the look on his face as it was happening was so painful I was gasping and doubled over. Afterwards I told the nurses it would get better after Z arrived, he was much more stoic than I could ever be. The resident suggested it would be a bad idea for me to be in the room during the spinal tap. Z got there before that procedure and agreed that I shouldn’t be in the room. He stayed and held C’s hand. I felt like such a coward for leaving.
I would have taken C’s place as the patient if I could have. Don’t get me wrong, I was serious when I said I was a coward. But it turns out that there is something worse than physical pain. I’d rather have gotten the spinal tap because it would have hurt me less than watching C go through it. What a shitty lesson to learn. Both the something-worse-than-physical-pain part and the how-very-much-I’m-motivated-by-selfishness part. It makes me so ashamed.
But I also learned something wonderful about who my sweet son is. I’d rather have come upon the knowledge in a less painful way, both for him and me, but I’m still grateful for it. He’s only 6 months old, we are learning who he is every day, although you can learn a lot about a baby in half a year. He is so good natured that I can’t believe my anxiety ridden, pessimistic body created him. Even when he is in pain he smiles at us, he lets his brother abuse him without complaint, he is an all around good sport. When the nurse was struggling with the IV to get blood to flow so she could draw her samples he did something that blew my mind. He’d been screaming and crying, but it slowed to a keening and his eyes slipped out of focus, his lids heavy. The nurse looked at him in surprise. “Oh my gosh, he’s self soothing.” I was stunned as well. And proud and even a little envious, although I don’t begrudge his ability to cope one single bit. I am amazed by him. When I came into the room after the spinal tap the same nurse told me he did it again during that procedure. He already knows how to help take care of himself. How can a baby be so wise? How can I ensure that we nurture and develop that part of himself?